Why Booking Direct With the Airline Can Preserve Your Health
It seemed a good idea at the time to book two single flights and change half way. It was cheaper than a direct flight, and with no time to transfer bags, we would be restricted to cabin baggage. With three children and a wife who likes to pack for every eventuality, this seemed like win-win to me. The reality, however, was somewhat different.
Yes, yes, yes, I should have delved into the details a little deeper but I didn’t. Ten minutes earlier I had concluded that there would be no overseas holiday this year. Now my wife was urging me to verify the broken journey she’d found. I clicked ‘process payment’ and the decision was made. I booked the flights from the UK to Morocco via a third party. You may know them – they have the same name as a fruit. A fruit that sounds like it comes from New Zealand.
Three months later, and just a couple of days before our departure, I investigated the information further. Three of the four legs were with Ryanair (Stansted-Milan and Milan-Fez) and the return journey began with AirArabia to Dublin with a change to Ryanair for the final segment. Ryanair has recently changed their carry-on policy so that anyone without priority boarding may take only one small item capable of being stowed under the seat in front. Everything else is loaded into the hold, and for us, that would mean arriving in Fez without our possessions.
All over our booking with the third party the words ‘Priority Boarding’ appeared in large letters, however, Ryanair disputed this claim. I opted for caution and paid the airline to ensure that our bags would be permitted in the cabin. However, the matter of a mere 60 minutes between our scheduled arrival in Milan and departure time to Morocco meant that any delay would severely hamper our success rate. In reality, this 60-minute window is halved when the gate closure is factored in. Leaving Stansted 25 minutes late concerned me so I talked to the cabin crew to see if they could let us disembark first. As the plane would be met by an apron bus this would be of little value.
Down but Not out
As we dashed off the apron bus into immigration, I tried to get through the transit channel, but we were forbidden. This meant that we had to clear customs, rush through the baggage hall through the green channel and into the arrivals hall. I looked around for signage and ran towards the departures area pausing at every turn to ensure my family was somewhere not too far behind.
I tried the fast track channel but it was an automated gate and subsequently less susceptible to my panicked charm than any member of staff may have been. We hustled back and into the winding, cordoned area pushing people aside and ducking under strips of material to jump the queue. It was at this point that a friendly security guard pointed out that our connection was delayed by 15 minutes, which reignited our optimism. We still had to clear customs, however, meaning that all the water and sunscreen we had purchased airside at Stansted was seized.
We cleared customs – now where was gate B19? Past garish duty-free shops and overpriced clothes outlets towards a sign that read ‘All gates’. This was Milan’s second airport – it couldn’t be that big, could it?
On and on across the polished floors, down the stairs and to the far end of the next hall. Turn right for all departures. Eventually, I saw a sign for ‘Gates A1 – 20’ and beyond that a sign for ‘B – all gates’. We’d been at a wedding the night before and it had been my largest beer consumption of the year so far. I could feel it gurgling inside my belly and perspiration stuck the shirt to my back. More running and I was starting to hurt. Finally, we were past A20 and at the far end of the hall I could see an arrow pointing to ‘B – all gates’. Down an escalator and across another hall to passport control. Wait a minute – haven’t we done this already? But through the gaps between the security kiosks, I could see the legend ‘B19’ hanging above a large crowd.
Time for a Victory Dance
It looked like boarding had not commenced. Unsure, I approached the desk, bypassing the enormous line snaking around the hall. I showed the clerk my priority boarding receipt (for the previous flight) but she barely looked at it or us, scanned the barcodes on my phone and ushered us through.
We’d made it. As we waited for the apron bus to take us almost exactly to the corner of the airport where we’d alighted just 24 minutes earlier, I was proud of us. There was a look of exhilarated exhaustion across the faces of my 9, 7 and 5-year-olds who’d all sprinted from one end of an international airport to the other dragging their own cabin baggage. It was a success and we would make it to our destination.
Beware of Booking Through Kiwi
The moral of the story? Think twice before using Kiwi to book your flights. Yes, third-party app, your computer-generated itinerary is technically feasible, and you did save me some money, but all the stress and the fact that we succeeded only due to a delay in the outbound flight means that I won’t be using your services again, thank you.
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© 2018 Matt Dolan